A Russian network of trolls used BuzzFeed’s open community boards to spread misinformation ahead of the United Kingdom’s elections, BBC reported Tuesday.
BBC traced the accounts to posts on BuzzFeed, blogging site Medium, social media site Quora and several other blogs and websites across the internet, the report notes. BBC examined a series of accounts on Reddit, which posted a list of the now-suspended accounts.
Unpaid volunteers are often responsible for posting much of the content on BuzzFeed’s Community section, which is separate from BuzzFeed News. The Community section typically houses silly quizzes and other joke articles that are not professionally edited.
The Community section contains BuzzFeed’s brand logo and colors but bears a disclaimer notifying readers that the news outlet’s editors have not “vetted or endorsed” the content on the site. (RELATED: Senate Intel Report Shows Russian Disinformation Fueled Resistance Movement Post-Election)
One of the Russian-linked Reddit accounts posted false information online and within a few minutes appeared, almost verbatim, on BuzzFeed’s Community Section, BBC reported. One account posted a post on the section that claimed to be an interview with a member of Britain’s MI6 secret service.
The agent claimed that former British Prime Minister David Cameron and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directed the person to thwart U.S. President Donald Trump from winning the 2016 election. The post received little media attention, BBC reported.
The post was viewed 522 times, BuzzFeed told BBC. A link to the article was shared only a handful of times on Facebook and Twitter. Other posts were even less popular, according to BBC. The Reddit posts were linked to a leak of US-UK documents posted online in October ahead of UK’s election, media reports show.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn revealed the documents at a press conference in November. He said at the time that they showed that if Prime Minister Boris Johnson removed the UK from the EU, then the country’s National Health Service would be part of the deal. Johnson denied the claim.
Graphika analyzed the document leak and posted a report on Dec. 2 suggesting the incident could indicate foreign interference in the country’s election. “It’s either the Russian operation all over again, or someone else trying hard to look like it,” Ben Nimmo, Graphika’s head of investigations, told reporters.
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